Kutztown University’s Council of Trustees unanimously passed a significant new fee for students at its meeting this past Thursday. The $488 “Campus Support Fee” represents, by itself, a 4.8% increase in mandatory costs to students over the 2017-18 academic year. If you include room and board, the total increase to students beginning in Fall 2008 will rise from $20,270 to $21,099, a total increase of 4.1%.
The unanimous vote ignored the pleas of students who attended the meeting to speak against the increase. According to Alexis Davis, a Kutztown University student who spoke at the meeting, she made the case that “there was little transparency regarding the fee prior to our Student Government Board President reading the Student Government Board’s resolution at the last meeting.” She indicated that she and other students wanted more details and greater transparency before the fee would be imposed.
Other students, Davis reported, “spoke to the fact that this fee was unfair, that the money to reduce the deficit should not come out of students’ pockets, that this fee is exploitative.” Davis said that she and other students, “worry of having large loans to pay back already and that the addition of this fee would not be a benefit.”
Davis said that members of the Council of Trustees did not respond to any of their comments specifically. “There was not any direct response,” Davis explained, “but each student was thanked for their comments. After we all were done speaking, they addressed us as a collective saying that our concerns would be taken to mind.” While students’ comments may have been taken in mind in the most abstract sense, it did little to slow down their decision to pass the fees.
“I was infuriated because I felt like our concerns were just brushed off and dismissed,” Davis told Raging Chicken Press. “Immediately after the vote was taken and the fee was passed, the other students at the meeting and I got up and left.”
Alexis Davis is a member of the Kutztown University chapter of the PA Student Power Network, an organization that is pushing for free college tuition at all the Pennsylvania state-owned universities. The Council of Trustees action “makes the push for affordable college that much more relevant,” Davis said. “For full-time KU students, the fee is an additional $488 per school year. Part-time students will be required to pay $20.33 per credit towards this fee.”
Davis said that she was certainly not alone in her anger. “I spoke with other students who left at the same time I did, and we all shared the same sentiment of shock at what just happened. None of us felt that we were listened to.”
As Pennsylvania state legislators meet today to question the RAND Corporation study about how to destroy the current form of PASSHE and distance it from its mission to provide access to affordable, high-quality education to all Pennsylvania residents, efforts to organize students to push back against increases in costs and to demand free tuition for all becomes all the more urgent.
Rather than leaving Davis feeling cynical about her efforts to influence the Council of Trustees decision, she left more determined than ever. She said, “this is not the last time the KU Council of Trustees will be hearing my name.